WVU, down 4-0 after two innings, tied the game at 4-4 only to have an unearned run decide the contest in dropping the first of a three-game set in Waco, Tex. West Virginia (9-9, 1-3 Big 12) got a solid starting performance from Connor Dotson, but allowed the winning run when the freshman was pulled after a leadoff single by Darryn Sheppard in the sixth inning. Dotson gave way to reliever Shane Ellis, who managed to get consecutive groundouts. But the second routine out was paired with a throwing error by first baseman Jackson Cramer that allowed Sheppard to score for the difference.
The error, one of three by West Virginia, decided the contest when the Mountaineers were shutout over the final three innings as they recorded a hit in each of the final three frames, but couldn’t push across another tying run in losing their third in four Big 12 games to open the conference slate. One game after dropping the initial series to Texas, WVU was again in position to claim an opening game, only to see errors and a lack of timely hitting doom it to a second loss in three outings.
Besides the defensive struggles – matched by Baylor’s three errors – the Mountaineers out-hit the Bears 11 to nine, but never gained the key stroke in leaving 10 runners on base to BU’s nine. The defeat gave Baylor a second win in 12 games after it lost 10 in a row entering a midweek game with Sam Houston State on Tuesday. Dotson (0-2) alternated between solid and struggling, and was ultimately saddled with the loss in an otherwise reasonable outing.
Baylor led 4-0 after two innings, the Bears benefitting early from a botched pickoff attempt by Dotson with runners on first and second when the pitcher threw to second without man covering in the first inning. That moved runners to second and third with one out. Aaron Dodson’s single gave BU a 1-0 lead before Dotson escaped with a foul out and strikeout. Baylor added on in the next frame on a leadoff double, followed by a walk and sac bunt to set up another second and third situation with one out.
Dotson wasn’t as fortunate that time, allowing a two-RBI single and fielder’s choice to plate three runs for a 4-1 deficit before getting a groundout to end the inning. He then settled, working quality third, fourth and fifth innings to keep the difference the same going into the sixth inning. West Virginia had baserunners through the first five innings, only to leave five runners because of a lack of timely hitting despite getting at least one hit from four of the first five in the line-up. WVU’s Brad Johnson had the lone RBI to that point on a single through the right side to score Taylor Munden after the leadoff hitter reached on a double in the third inning.
West Virginia tied the game at 4-4 in the sixth inning when Kyle Davis scored on a Shaun Corso flyout, followed by a singles by KC Huth and Munden. That signaled the end for Baylor starter Daniel Castano, who threw 5.2 innings, allowing four runs – but just one earned because of two errors – on eight hits with five strikeouts and a walk. The sophomore was at 115 pitches, 72 strikes, when Baylor went to the bullpen and senior right-hander Joe Kirkland, who retired Huth in a rundown to give Castano the no decision. It lowered the left-handers ERA to 2.35. Kirland (3-1) eventually gained the win.
Dotson followed Castano’s exit in the bottom half after giving up a leadoff single. The freshman went five full innings, giving way to Ennis after the same eight hits, with five runs, three earned, and two strikeouts against a couple walks. He threw 95 pitches, 56 for strikes, moving his ERA to 3.05, and was the pitcher of record after Baylor managed two groundouts to score on the throwing error by Jackson Cramer for a 5-4 Bears’ lead entering the final three frames.
West Virginia benefitted from two hits each by Munden and Justin Fox at the top of the order, as well as one hit from the three to six slots, but could never piece together enough offense to take the lead at any time. Baylor (8-13, 1-3) was led by the same multi-hit games from the top two spots as Logan Brown and Justin Arrington each finished 2-of-5 with Brown recording a pair of key RBI. Sean Spicer pitched the ninth the right-hander’s third save of the season.
Dotson recorded another no-decision in his first career start last Friday, allowing two runs on five hits with one strikeout and three walks in six innings at Texas. West Virginia also got two hits from Huth, who had an RBI. The Mountaineers had just two extra base hits in their 11, those doubles by Cramer and Munden. Cramer and Kyle Davis struck out three times each in a somewhat still surprisingly ineffective performance against a Baylor team who has now allowed four or fewer runs in seven of the last nine games.
It was a vast difference from the Tuesday game against Akron, when 11 different players recorded hits in a chilly 35-degree game in Washington, Pa. in tying the season-high mark of 20 hits set in a road series at East Tennessee State. WVU falls to 3-4 all-time versus Baylor; the Mountaineers swept the regular season series last year in Charleston, W.Va. before falling to the Bears in the elimination game of the Big 12 Tournament.
The series continues Saturday, with head coach Randy Mazey utilizing the same rotation as last weekend at Texas with junior left-hander Ross Vance (2-1, 2.78 ERA) and sophomore right-hander Chad Donato (2-3, 1.74 ERA). Baylor head coach Steve Smith will counter with senior right-hander Austin Stone (0-2, 9.20 ERA) and sophomore right-hander Drew Tolson (0-4, 4.45 ERA). Saturday’s game is set for 4 p.m. and Sunday’s finale will be at 2 p.m. All times are Eastern. Saturday’s game will be televised on Fox College Sports and Sunday’s game will be on Fox Sports Southwest.